Attention Addiction

Stealing, lying, physical aggression – the behavior of a 6-year-old girl? Stephanie and Bryan’s middle daughter, Jessica, has regular outbursts, and the couple is desperately seeking help.

Doctor of psychology Wendy Walsh, Ph.D. explains that Jessica’s behavior may be “classic middle-child syndrome. Because you have [four] kids, you’re, in some manner, expecting her to step up and be a 12-year-old. She’s looking at who’s getting the attention, and it’s the 2-and-a-half-year-old, so she’s behaving like a 2-and-a-half-year-old, because she sees that works.

“You’re never going to create an angel overnight,” Dr. Wendy says. “But right now, what this little girl is addicted to is negative attention. She’s figured out that she can get your attention really easily with negative behavior.”

Dr. Wendy and pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears reveal simple strategies to help curb out-of-control behavior in kids.

“It takes a pretty smart child to do what she’s doing, so that’s actually a good thing,” Dr. Sears says. “When she learns how to control this, she’s going to be a great kid, and she’s going to excel at everything she wants to do.”